Faluwa Ride To Sabtang Island
Batanes’s motorized colorful viking-designed boats up there are called Faluwa. If you need to travel to Sabtang Island or Itbayat Island you need to take a faluwa from Ivana Port. We woke up so early in the morning, around 430am because we were hoping to catch a jeepney ride from Basco town to Ivana Port, roughly 30-45 minutes away from our hotel. However after rushing with our breakfast, the tour guide from our hotel had the courtesy to offer us the ride via their van as one of their guests were actually going to Sabtang Island as well. Wow! We were so lucky to have booked our stay at Batanes Seaside Lodge! And so the nice offer was taken, off we went to Ivana Port looking forward to our trip via the faluwa.
At Ivana Port, we were met by Mel Fidel who would be the captain of the faluwa and the jeepney ride around Sabtang Island. He had two other assistants who would be our lifesavers in case the weather condition turns sour that day (but I was secretly holding on to dear life that it wouldn’t).
Ivana Port to Sabtang Island took us about an hour, on that kind of weather condition. This was one of the buwis-buhay part of the journey that we survived on our trip to Sabtang Island. The waves were dancing as we traveled from Ivatan to Sabtang. We were not able to take pictures of the so-called dancing waves as seawater was everywhere, afraid that it might damage our cameras. So we were only able to take pictures aboard while the faluwa was still harnessed at the port.
After an hour of holding on to dear life via BCTA faluwa, we reached the Port of Sabtang still alive and kicking 🙂 It was a busy port that day, the people around almost had the same enthusiasm that we have. They greeted us, some with their toothless smiles. I managed to return the same congeniality by flashing them my smile and a shot from my camera. Oh well that was good enough. Because all I could ever think of at that time was the lunch that I would have by the beach since we had to rush our breakfast earlier that day.
7am officially marked the start of our tour of Sabtang Island. We were brought to the Heritage Hall of Sabtang to pay a cultural fee of P100 each. The hall is located in Barangay Malakdang, just across the church in the island. I guess that’s our entrance fee for the entire duration of our stay within the island. I noticed that the Heritage Hall have vacant rooms, I think the receptionist noted my inquisitiveness and immediately told me that the rooms are for rent for as low as P200 per person per night.
After paying the initial damage for this tour, we hurriedly went inside the jeep that would take us around Sabtang Island. There were only four of us tourists, the tour guide and the driver inside the jeep so I guess one can only imagine how spacious the inside was. It was a comforting ride sans the bumps caused by the rough roads heading to our destinations.
The first part of the tour was the trip to Savijug or Savidug Barrio. The first village outside the town proper which you’ll stopover. We had the chance to walk around the barangay and marvel at all the centuries-old Batanes stone houses that comprise the village. In fact, these houses are candidates for inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List. And I hope the locals keep their village and way of life the way it is.
A visit to Savidug is like being transported to a different world.
The next site to see was the Savijug Idjang, also known as the rolling hills of Sabtang Island. This is where ancient Ivatans took refuge during the hostilities with other tribes. Idjangs are ancient hilltop fortresses used by the Ivatans as dwelling places and centers of communal life. Taking advantage of the pre-existing topography, they were built, shaped and fortified to fit the local population’s purposes. It’s hypothesized that in times of conflict, access to the Idjang would only be possible through a rope ladder that was lowered from above, thus ensuring a very defensible position. Archaeologists point to the presence of a considerable number of stones at the top as adding strength to this hypothesis because they might serve as “ammunition” to throw down on invading parties.
The idjang found in Savidug is considered to be the most beautiful and perfectly shaped among the Batanes Idjangs.
A Stop At Heaven On Earth
On our way to Chavayan Barrio, we stopped at a location where heaven meets the sea and the mountains. I really don’t know what the name of the place is specifically but it’s in the highway going to Chavayan Barrio. The views are simply astounding and most of our pictorials were taken from this spot. What was supposedly a short stop turned out to be almost 2 hours of endless opportunities at camera shots. Check these out:
After feasting our eyes at this place for almost two hours, the tour guide decided to put an end at our camera frenzy. He was almost sure that we’d never stop if he didn’t intervened. According to him, we’ll have more of these amazing sights to see. So we surrendered and heeded his call, and made our way to a sleepy little time-warped barrio called Chavayan. The back of the village is delicately cradled in the bosom of the mountains, its front plays intimate with the dark blue ocean. The only road to the village is through a snaking one-lane drive on top a hill cutting through volcanic boulders. It snakes through treacherous bend after bend the height of a 20-storey building then it gradually goes down, gracefully so, until it ends near where Pacific Ocean begins.
Time space warp, ngayon din!
Suspended in time.
This is what I felt initially upon seeing Chavayan Barrio. The houses here withstood the test of time and the unforgiving, albeit unpredictable weather. The morning I set foot in the village it was hot and muggy but a few heartbeats later, the sky darkened. The ocean was a mist. The mountains, all gray.
In my estimate, it’s a village the size of four bastketball courts. About forty households. At daytime, it’s quiet since the men go fishing or farming. Those left in the village get involved in the cottage industry of man – a sari-sari store. Living in a village cradled by unpredictable weather conditions and strong ocean current is no joke. Food doesn’t come easy here. The rice, the Ivatans get them from the mainland. They have fish and vegetables as staple and between ordinary days, they have meat.
The village prides itself to have Lolo Marcelo who is regarded as the oldest man alive in the entire province. At 103 years old, he still has that energy to laugh with me during our casual conversation. The widower lolo laughed so hard when I asked him if there is still a fat chance for him to remarry! And now, most of you are most interested about his secret to last a century (and never been hospitalized. Ever!). Without skipping a beat he said, “A healthy lifestyle. No meat. I only eat vegetables and get enough exercise.” Now, it is a no-brainer after all. That’s a first-person account about the real fountain of youth! It doesn’t really come in a fountain squirting the elixir and what-not but it comes in a plate of veggies coupled with exercise. What say you???
Like many travelers who came before me, I should say that a visit to Batanes is never complete without visiting Chavayan Village in Sabtang Island. It is one time-machine that will bring you to what Batanes was like decades ago. The warmth of its people, the smiles, the laid-back verve rubbed on me minutes after I set foot in the what many called as the Scotland of the Philippines.
When in Batanes particularly in Sabtang Island, ask your tour guide (if you have one, or if none just make sure you add this in your itinerary) about having lunch at the Nakabuang Arch, one of the most pictured beach spot in Batanes. It is famous for its stone/rock arch formation in a very private cove. It is actually an ideal site for picnic, snorkeling and camping. Trust me, it will be worth it. Not only will you be able to see the arch — a rock sculptured by nature — you also get to swim in the clear waters and lounge in the white sands of Nakabuang Beach also known as Ahaw Beach. Getting to this beach I should say is one hell of a bumpy ride though but again like what I mentioned earlier, it was well worth the ride.
After two hours spent dilly-dallying at this private beach cove, which included time spent for lunch. The tour guide signaled that we need to be going to avoid high tide traveling back to Ivana Port.
Here were the scenes at the Sabtang Port while waiting for the faluwa ride going back to Ivana Port.
We still experienced the dancing waves, as expected, aboard the faluwa ride back to Ivana Port. But there were no casualties nor any dizziness experienced by me nor the other passengers. It was a long two hour ride as predicted by the faluwa boat captain, due to the large waves we came across during the course of the travel.